Ghazal 228, Verse 11x


minnat-kashii me;N ;hau.salah be-i;xtiyaar hai
daamaan-e .sad kafan tah-e sang-e mazaar hai

1) in being under obligation, the spirit/courage is powerless/coerced
2) the garment-hem of a hundred shrouds is beneath the stone of the tomb


minnat-kash : 'Under obligation, obliged'. (Platts p.1071)


;hau.salah : 'Stomach, maw; crop, craw; (fig.) capacity; desire, ambition; resolution; spirit, courage'. (Platts p.482)


be-i;xtiyaar : 'Without choice, involuntary, constrained, forced, compelled; without self-possession, control, or authority; — involuntarily, against (one's) will, in spite of oneself, perforce'. (Platts p.204)


tah : 'Ground; site; floor; surface; bottom, underneath; foundation; depth; layer, stratum; fold, plait, ply; — real meaning or intent; hidden meaning; depth of meaning, profundity, subtleness'. (Platts p.345)


The claim of spirit and courage is that no favor/kindness of anyone's would be taken [as a burden of obligation] upon its head. But alas, that in being under obligation the spirit/courage becomes entirely compelled, and by force is made to be under obligation. Thus to obtain a shroud is a form of being under obligation. Even if the spirit/courage would revolt against this, and turn its face aside from this favor/kindness, even then by coercion it is forced to take upon its head the favor/kindness of the garment-hem of the shroud, which is under the stone of the tomb. The layer of the stone of the tomb is in its own right equal to the garment-hem of a hundred shrouds. In this situation what can the poor spirit/courage do? It is forced to be under obligation.

A second meaning can be this: With regard to being under obligation, the spirit/courage becomes compelled. Look at the garment-hem of the shroud, which because of that obligedness is pressed down under the stone of the tomb.

== Asi, pp. 267-268


daaman zer-e sang aanaa = to become compelled and helpless. [A proposal for improving the grammar of the first line.] The theme emerges from the second line, which is by way of a proverb. The proverb is 'The dead are in the hands of the living' [murdah bah dast zindah]. If the garment-hem of the dead person would come beneath the 'shroud' of stone, then how will he remove it?-- until someone else (alive) would remove it. If in the first line instead of me;N there were kaa -- that is, minnat-kasho;N kaa ;hau.slah be-i;xtiyaar hai -- that is, 'he takes on the favor/kindness of others who is without spirit/courage, and compelled', then it would be clearer. It's possible that Mirza might have composed this, and minnat-kashii me;N might be a scribal error.

== Zamin, p. 391

Gyan Chand:

Who likes to be under the burden of [indebtedness to] someone's favor/kindness? But one is forced to take this on. Life is one thing-- but even after death, one is not free of the burden of obligation. The garment-hem of the shroud is pressed down by the stone of the tomb. That is, to put on a shroud and go into the tomb is necessary-- which is the same as to take on the favor/kindness of the tomb. Thus it is proved that even after death human spirit/courage is compelled to be under obligation to someone. And patthar ke niiche daaman honaa is an idiom, of which the meaning is to be oppressed in front of someone.

== Gyan Chand, p. 391



For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices. For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}.

Well, Zamin gives us daaman zer-e sang aanaa (as well as an inferior revision of the verse), and Gyan Chand gives us patthar ke niiche daaman honaa , which he clearly identifies as 'an idiom'. Plainly there was some kind of Persianized idiom about 'having the garment-hem (trapped) beneath a stone' as an expression of powerlessness and coercion. As he does so often, Ghalib evokes this idiom without ever stating it explicitly; and as he does almost always, he invokes it in both its idiomatic sense and its literal meaning.

This verse very explicitly belongs to a group that I call 'independence' verses; for discussion and examples, see {9,1}. As the first line makes clear, one's spirit/courage may not wish to be under obligation, to be indebted, to owe a humiliating gratitude to a patron for his favor/generosity. But one is powerless to avoid it, even in death. Idiomatically, a man has no choice about it-- so to speak, he has his 'garment-hem (trapped) beneath a stone'; and literally, he cannot avoid being 'under' obligation because his shrouded body is helplessly pressed down beneath the heavy (but beneficent, and thus gratitude-demanding) stone of his tomb.

Compare the brilliant {230,7}, which makes similar use of a 'hand (trapped) under a stone'.